While the broader markets are working through Monday’s sharp hiccups, Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR) has seemingly regained its footing. Once a chronic Wall Street laggard, Twitter stock now stands on multi-year highs. Could a sustained recovery that was long thought impossible actually become a reality?
On a surface level, I can understand why many investors are feeling optimistic toward TWTR. Amid the wild volatility in the Dow Jones and other benchmark indices, social media companies are holding their own. Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) is up 2% year-to-date despite nagging political controversies, while Snap Inc (NYSE:SNAP) roared to life after a spectacular earnings beat.
If the ongoing Russian collusion investigation wasn’t enough to derail Facebook, and the markets were willing to give the turbulent Snap stock a second chance, surely Twitter stock is worth another look?
After posting strong fourth-quarter earnings results, the bullish argument looks convincing. For the first time in its history, Twitter posted a profit. Earnings per share came in at 19 cents, which was 5 cents above Wall Street expectations. Moreover, top-line sales also beat, delivering $732 million against a $686.1 million estimate.
The most important detail to embattled shareholders is that Twitter stock is soaring 22% in Thursday’s trading. With such a decisive response from the markets, can we finally believe in the president’s favorite app?
Twitter Stock Faces the Same Problems
While we can all appreciate the renewed optimism toward TWTR stock, new investors face a double quandary. On a technical basis, the best time to speculate was early to the middle of last year. That was the time when no one gave the company a second thought. Now that the rally is on like Donkey Kong, TWTR is no longer an unknown commodity.
Second, Twitter stock hasn’t gained any new fundamental ground. Sure, it’s nice to pull in a profit and not subject shareholders to a sea of red ink. More importantly, management can talk about actual traction rather than its potential. But obviously, one quarter doesn’t mean much if it doesn’t spark future success.
You can never say never in the markets, as Snap Inc proved. However, as a social media company, TWTR has to pull in the subscriber numbers. But as I demonstrated in my last piece about Twitter stock, the company’s sub growth has largely been stagnant for the past three years.
In that time, Twitter gained 30 million subs, which appears significant. But magnitude-wise, that’s only a 10% growth rate in three years. Unless that figure changes consistently for the better, I’d view this trend as a major concern. Indeed, it might be the kiss of death for TWTR stock.
Which brings me to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. No one questions his street cred, and the vibrancy he brings to an organization. But two of them? It was a herculean task for former Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) CEO and American icon Steve Jobs. In fact, Jobs stated that leading both Apple and Pixar was the “worst time” in his life.
Twitter has more than enough problems for a full-time chief executive. This year, the situation really hasn’t improved; in fact, it’s gotten worse.
Twitter Also has New Problems
Recent events underscore just how desperately Twitter, and by logical extension, Twitter stock, needs a full-timer. As our own Dana Blankenhorn reported, the company’s “COO Anthony Noto has left the building, to run privately held SoFi, and he isn’t coming back. Twitter has lost its adult supervision, and investors need to decide if they can trust it.”
The answer is no. If Facebook execs are worried about Russian collusion, imagine how the suits at Twitter feel. Adult supervision? Doesn’t the company mandatorily retire people at age 35?
In all seriousness, the growing public distrust toward social media has fallen squarely on Twitter. It’s one thing when Russian trolls use your multimedia platform to pump propaganda. It’s quite another when you allow terrorists to broadcast beheadings or indirectly facilitate neo-Nazi gatherings.
While these new challenges won’t derail the social media firm, investors will surely wonder if the headaches are worth it. As I mentioned before, TWTR stock was an enticing contrarian play back when everybody hated it. Since Twitter hasn’t truly addressed its longer-term issues, it’s neither a tempting pick nor a smart one.
As of this writing, Josh Enomoto did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.